Earth was here before us, and will live on after

In most science fiction novels the protagonist is a scientific prodigy. Obviously as the main character of the story you would assume the lead is intelligent, important, and central to the progression of the narrative. Almost the exact opposite could be said of Isherwood Williams. While in no means an imbecile, Ish is an average joe facing the end of human civilization as we know it in George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides. When a disease hits society wiping out most of the population, we discover what happens to the world through Ish, who was for some reason not affected by the disease. The novel follows Ish through his life unsuccessfully attempting to rebuild society to what it was before the diseases outbreak.
This science fiction post-apocalyptic tale has been a staple of the genre since it was released. Stewart spends his time focusing less on the actual cause of humanity’s downfall, and instead decides to explore more of Ish’s initial attempt to rebuild society the way it once was. I always wonder how our society would react and adjust if something happened to the majority of the population. While Ish’s focus on attempting to pass on the knowledge and social structure of what once was is an admirable task, he often went about it ineffective and sexist manner. Ish believes that his view of the future is what is best for mankind, when in reality Ish is clinging to the ways society was before the virus. If Ish had made more of an attempt to adapt to the reality he now faced he may have made more of an impact on society before his eventual end.
While the writing is occasionally dry and overdramatic, Stewart’s novel still stands the test of time today. I would have enjoyed more of the future children and even what happened after Ish’s death, but that might be because Stewart actually drew me in to the post-apocalyptic society that he set up. All I know is that if I have to read Ish talking about Princess one more time, I’ll never read this book again.

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